Loving Lilacs – by Linda Berkery
When you think of the Adirondack Mountains and the majestic Lake George, “lilacs” is not the first word that comes to mind. And yet there they were—crazy lilacs—nature’s own wild landscaping overlooking the lake. Who might have planted these old fashioned bushes so many years ago? I wondered. How wonderful that they remain on the fringe!
An unexpected gift from my daughter brought us to the Adirondack Mountains in May for a few days of quiet rest. My husband settled in with his pencils and sketch book to draw the gorgeous landscape, while I wandered the “neat as a pin” property, camera in hand, looking for something different. Something else, I thought, what is it about a spring visit?
With the mountain framed behind them and the blue lake showing through them, lilacs snatched my attention. What is it about lilacs that create unbelievable joy? For three days I watched stems bob in the gentle breeze—buds bursting open with life. I hurried to record these colors because lilacs are an “on-call” flower. A tight pink bud pops overnight into a deep purple bloom. Lilacs grow upright and firm, and yet in a few days they tumble over. Pay attention, the lilacs shout, soon we will be heavy and soggy and done.
Unlike so many other flowers, lilacs cannot be bought in a supermarket any month we fancy. They are a limited time offer—their season is at best two weeks. Lilacs are a delicacy.
I lingered with lilacs proclaiming their beauty over and over until my husband said I was like a six year old weaving and wandering through the bushes. Little did he know how right he was—I was indeed visiting my childhood through the lilacs. I spread my scarf under the bushes and took a moment to sit and pray. Childhood memories mixed with Lake George sounds.
There was a lilac bush in every yard in my old Irish neighborhood. But ours was the largest. It was planted over an old outhouse—which made “easy to grow” lilacs even easier. Our lilac bush was wide enough to separate the lawn into two sections and push the neighbor’s fence. I tore armloads of blossoms, tied them up in ribbons, and marched around practicing for the May procession. Little flowers that dropped were arranged in my hair like a crown. I was a lilac princess in pedal pushers until a bee would chase me inside. Then I would lean out my bedroom window and gulp the cheerful perfume coming from my own lilac church.
My birthday is not in the spring, but I nominate lilacs as a universal birthday flower. They come around but once a year. When it is their special time—they show up—a treasured gift. Lilacs are the helium balloons of the earth’s springtime party—each day blowing up bigger and bigger reaching for the sky until they simply burst. Gradually they nod over drowsy with their own fragrance. They know when it is time to end the festivities.
You can’t really save the joy of lilacs anymore than the delights of a birthday party. You can extend it a week or so until the entire family gathers, but it is still over until next year—only the photographs remain. So thank you blessed lilacs for the surprise party in May!
(It is always a gift to offer a guest post from writer Linda Berkery to the blog! I am grateful for her descriptive post today, I can smell the lilacs in my imagination right now!)
I love this post. It brings me back to my hometown in Rochester, NY and family outings to the annual Lilac festival at Highland Park every May. We’d pile in the car after Sunday mass and head to the festival so we could see and smell, and secretly touch (with expected scolding) the firm and waxy flowers. In Rochester there would always be some rain before, during, or after (sometimes all) which seemed to make the scent even more pronounced. As a child I had no idea how unique this display estimated to be more than 500 varieties was to this region, nor did I imagine how the experience would follow me every year.
Rochester? How do I not know this? I lived there when I was in my 20’s, from 1981-86. I was not practicing our faith at the time, but that was where I got my MA in Pastoral Studies two years ago! (Classes were here.)
Our Lilac Festival just ended here in Rochester. There is – or was – a Lilac Festival perfume for sale there at one time. It’s listed in the Vermont Country Store catalog (http://www.vermontcountrystore.com/store/jump/productDetail/Health_&_Beauty/Scents_and_Powders/Perfume_for_Her/Highland_Lilac_of_Rochester_Eau_de_Parfum/43100. I imagine it can be found for less on eBay or other such sites.
How I used to love going to the Lilac Festival. I think I have my #tbt photo ready to roll in a couple of days! 🙂